CUMBERLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- There is a spotlight on school resource officers in the wake of school shootings across the country.
School resource officers are police that are embedded in school campuses. They not only patrol the grounds, but also interact with students.
Officer John Dalbec has been working at Greely High School for nearly 25 years.
"People count on their school resource officers to do a lot of things, and the most important thing is to be there for them when they need you," said Officer Dalbec. "It's still a handshake and looking someone in the eye and telling them, 'it's going to be okay, we're going to figure it out. I'm your guy.'"
University of Southern Maine research analyst Danielle Layton said there are 67 school resource officers in 97 schools across 51 towns in Maine. She said the Maine Department of Education is not required to keep these records, and neither does the National Association of School Resource Officers. Maine DOE director of communications Rachel Paling said Wednesday that the Department is trying to start gathering that information.
Layton said there is not much research about the effectiveness of having officers on school grounds at all times.
Many students at Greely consider Officer Dalbec a crucial part of their community.
"I personally had a situation on our bus where One kid was saying some words to a few people and he completely resolved the issue and made sure I felt comfortable coming back to school the day after even though that situation happened," said senior Shane DeWolfe. "He's great with every student. He takes care of any type of issue around the school."
"I'm glad that he's kind of there in case that does actually happen to our school," said freshman Lindsay Eisenhart. "it makes me feel a little safer. If there's something going on in the school there's someone who can take over and help out."
Students and administrators say the connections that SROs build with students and staff prevent kids from feeling alienated or alone, and encourage kids to report anything that could be unsafe.
Cumberland was one of the first towns to start placing police officers in schools. Starting this fall, Cumberland Police will start rotating SROs on a four-year basis to allow them to share their experience working in schools with their fellow officers.
"No matter what the crisis is, you're there. Kids will tell you anything and as long as they feel like they're getting a fair shake and you're honest with them and you give them the right direction, and the fact that they know you care is really important," said Officer Dalbec.